Harvard alumnus James L. Sherley, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the Biological Engineering department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has “come out” with his opposition to cloning and destructive embryonic stem cell research. In particular, Professor Sherley, a Pew scholar credited with research on the “assymetrical” division of adult stem cells, is quoted in Australia’s MercatorNet,
When the errant biological properties of human embryonic stem cells are considered, it is difficult to foresee them ever being used directly as cures in children or adults. This promise was the earliest misleading misinformation from proponents of human embryo research. Because many factors that guide the normal development of embryonic cells are absent in mature tissues, embryonic stem cells placed in adult tissues produce malformed tissues that are cancerous. So, figuring out how to use human embryonic stem cells directly by transplantation into patients is tantamount to solving the cancer problem.
Human embryonic stem cell scientists, who lacked sufficient knowledge of the cell biology of mature tissues, naively promised to develop new therapies with mature cells produced from embryonic stem cells. These scientists overlooked the fact that mature cells, which lack the renewal capability of stem cells, cannot be used for long-term treatment in mature tissues, which require continuous renewal.
There is one strategy by which embryonic stem cells might be used to develop therapies for the tissues of adults and children. If embryonic stem cells could be used to produce tissue-specific adult stem cells, the adult stem cells could be tried for mature tissue therapies. However, since natural adult stem cells are available from informed consenting adult donors, this possible embryonic stem cell-dependent strategy is not absolute, as has been suggested by proponents of human embryo cloning.
Moreover, if derivation of specific adult stem cell types from embryonic stem cells is found to be possible, the derivation process will take longer than using natural adult stem cells and may still produce defective and possibly tumour-forming adult stem cells. However, more to the point, why pursue this uncertain path that requires destruction and exploitation of human embryos, when adult stem cells can be used instead?
Dr. Sherley wrote an editorial early in June, 2006 calling for Harvard to “revoke” plans to clone human embryos in the Boston Globe and is quoted extensively in another excellent review article, written by James P. Kelly, in the Seoul Times.
Considering the regulation of the use of human research subjects and the human embryo’s protection under these regulations:
Human embryo scientists have tacitly agreed that cloned embryos should not be matured beyond an arbitrary early stage of embryo development. (This agreement highlights the deception of their feigned uncertainty on the question of whether human embryos are living human beings.)
However, it is very likely that diseases of adult life, if they show any manifestation in embryos at all, will do so well after this arbitrary stage of maturation. The public can be sure that Harvard’s and other scientists, like camels in a tent, will keep inching this boundary forward with newly-crafted, misleading excuses for doing so.
MercatorNet: You seem pretty convinced that human embryos are human beings. Can you explain briefly why?
Sherley: My answer is, “What else could they be — aliens?” Scientists who want to conduct experiments with human embryos are quick to say what human embryos are not. I challenge them to tell the public what human embryos are. There is only one answer to this question, “living human beings.”
Edited 2/19/13 for formatting typos. BBN